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Every Teacher Needs This--A Word Study Box of Tricks

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

Every teacher needs a Word Study Box of Tricks! If you don't already have one, I'm here to help you get started. If you do have one, I'm here to help you add to it.

Word Study is necessary as part of your whole group literacy instruction but it is crucial when meeting with small groups of students and conferring with individual students. It’s important to equip yourself with word study tools so you will be better prepared to immediately meet student word work needs. You need a Word Study Box of Tricks!

BTW…word study activities are a great time filler when the school assembly is cancelled at the last minute or the cafeteria is running behind or today’s school picture schedule has changed…AGAIN! OR…word study activities are great for when students are finishing breakfast in the classroom, you are taking attendance, during morning announcements and getting settled for the day. You get the idea! Word Study can happen at any time during the day.

Back to that Word Study Box of Tricks…

Students love word study because it feels like a game, but teachers are creating intentional experiences in which students are constructing and deconstructing words to notice and play with word chunks and word parts.

Just be sure your word work activities are appropriate for your grade level and the reading levels of your students. Now remember…intermediate students don’t want to be walking around the room to find words that start with A or B or C or…

Students also need weekly differentiated instruction with word work within their small groups. When planning your small group instruction each week, insert word work as part of the routine. Word work must be relevant and within the context of the small group reading or small group writing.

Do these scenarios sound familiar?

Picture this…

You’re working with a group of 5 students who are reading in the Fountas and Pinnell range of M N O. The texts at this level have more text and fewer illustrations. The pictures do not always give obvious clues to more difficult words used by the author. As you listen in to their reading at the guided reading table, you notice the students struggle with the “bigger” words because they are not noticing the smaller word parts and familiar roots. So, you dig into your word study box of tricks and pull out a Making Words lesson. This will be the first of many weekly Making Words visits because you need these students to start noticing familiar word parts and chunks and understand how they are used to build bigger words.

Another group of 3 students are reading at a Fountas and Pinnell range of H I J. You’ve noticed that 2 members really struggle when they encounter words with the <str> blend. So, you bring in letter tiles to create as many words with <str> as possible. You record those words on word cards and begin a sort. BAM…word experience created!

Back to that Word Study Box of Tricks…

Okay, I know you are asking…

What’s in a Word Study Box of Tricks?

Okay, so here it goes…anything word play related!

As long as you can play with words and word patterns with the tool, it has a place in your box of tricks.

I’ve seen primary teachers equip themselves with plastic Easter eggs and place capital letters on one half and lower case letters on the other half. Now that’s NOT really something for intermediate students and middle schoolers, but you get the idea.

Think outside the box!! Suggested items could include:

  • letter tiles (color coded by vowel and consonants)

  • word chunk/word part cards

  • word chunk/word part dice

  • making words lessons

  • word sort cards

  • magnetic letters

  • magnetic word parts/chunks

  • Scrabble letter tiles

  • Letter cubes

  • Blend cubes

Resources you could use tomorrow (small group or whole group or BOTH)!


Create a Boggle board in your classroom

Students use the Boggle board to create as many words as possible. Words created are 1 point each. Word Wall words are 5 points each. This board can be used within the small group or as an independent activity. These letters are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store in the Word Study Tools product.

letter cubes

Making Words dice game

Players roll the dice with a partner and both try to make as many words as possible with the letters. Each partner gets one point for each letter used. If the word is a word wall word, the player gets 5 bonus points.

Check out below to see how you can get the templates and ideas to create these fabulous word study resources.

Blends dice

Students roll one die and try to make as many words as possible using the word part shown. Use sand timers or stopwatches to time each player to one minute.

Making Words

This a strategy developed by Patricia Cunningham and Dorothy Hall that has been around for quite a while! However, it’s been effective and has stayed effective within my word work routine with children. Students are given specific letters that form one big mystery word and are asked to spell smaller words given by the teacher using the letters. The lessons are created using certain word parts, chunks, digraphs, blends, etc. Making Words helps students notice familiar word parts and chunks, how they sound and how they are spelled. This work must be intentionally transferred into their guided and independent reading. After making the words in the lesson, students are asked to sort the words based on spelling and language patterns. Then, asked to brainstorm other words that may be included in the word sort groups. These word sorts are charted and kept for future reference. Included in the free download is a Making Words lesson for you to try out! Click the Word Work Tools sampler.

Until next time...

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